Blogs | Food & Water Watch - Part 14
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October 22nd, 2014

UN Officials Echo Pleas to Restore Water Service in Detroit

By Lynna Kaucheck


United Nations (UN) representatives Catarina de Albuquerque (left) and Leilani Farha (right) answer questions from local residents during a UN Fact-Finding Detroit Town Hall Meeting.

This past weekend, representatives from the United Nations visited Detroit to witness first-hand the repercussions of the city’s on-going water crisis. Needless to say, they were shocked, as I have been too, despite my many years fighting for water justice in the Motor City.

Ten years ago, when I first started working to preserve the right of Detroiters to safe, clean, affordable water, I never imagined the trajectory that work would take. Quite frankly, some of the politicking that has occurred in those areas over the past decade I couldn’t have anticipated in my wildest dreams.

After sitting under the thumb of a federal judge for 35 years, in March of 2013, the city of Detroit regained oversight of the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department (DWSD). That same month, Governor Rick Snyder sent emergency manager (EM) Kevyn Orr to Detroit to run the city, foregoing in the process, democracy and citizen participation. A few months later, the city declared bankruptcy and the threat of privatizing the DWSD became very real. This past March, after talks with suburban entities over a regional water authority broke down, Orr announced a plan to privatize the DWSD, issuing a request for information from interested parties. Within hours, the DWSD announced plans to pursue an aggressive shut-off plan in the city with a goal of denying water to 1,500 – 3,000 residences a week.

Of course, misinformation about the shutoffs abounded. This wasn’t simply a case of people opting not to pay their water bills. Some 40 percent of the city lives in poverty, victims of decades of misplaced civic priorities and policies that put profits ahead of people. Read the full article…

October 17th, 2014

The New Face of Green Energy: Profiting From Pollution in the Alberta Oil Sands

Image provided by Howl Arts Collective

Image provided by Howl Arts Collective

By Elizabeth Nussbaumer

On September 29, Genalta Power of Alberta, Canada announced that it generated 8,208 tons of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) carbon offsets from its Cadotte Peace River Power Generating Facility in 2013. The credits were created by converting waste gas — a byproduct of bitumen extraction in the oil sands — that is typically flared, or burned, into electric energy. This superficial, “environmentally-friendly” initiative is a sham, and here’s why:

First, offsets of any kind are a shell game. They allow a polluter to purchase emissions reduction credits instead of reducing their own emissions at the source. In the United States, for example, an oil refinery in California is allowed to meet a portion of its required emissions reductions by purchasing offsets from a landowner in Arkansas who has agreed to not cut down the forest on their land. Cutting down trees releases CO2 emissions, so the act of refraining from cutting them down counts as an “avoided emission,” and can be sold as an offset. Read the full article…

October 15th, 2014

The Global Frackdown 2014: A Recap


By Mark Schlosberg

Last Saturday, thousands of people across the world gathered to participate in the Global Frackdown: an international day of action to demand a ban on fracking and other dangerous forms of oil extraction. By almost any measure, this year’s collection of rallies, performances, public speaking events and educational opportunities was the biggest and most powerful day of action yet — a reflection of the growing movement against fracking, fueled by mounting scientific evidence that this dangerous practice not only poses a significant threat to water, air, health and our communities, but also threatens the climate on which we all depend.

The first Global Frackdown in 2012 featured 200 international events. Last year, we noted over 250 and in 2014 we saw many more — well over 300 — and actually many more including all of the actions in Europe that were also connected with a day of action against three trade agreements. These agreements could make it much more difficult for European communities to prevent fracking. Last year, the Global Frackdown had events in 30 different countries; this year our day of action spread out to 34. Last year, in the U.S. there were actions in 30 states; this year there were actions in 33 states and the District of Columbia. And, this comes on the heals of the People’s Climate March, which was attended by 400,000 and was noted, in part, for the strength of the anti-fracking contingent.

Actions ran the gamut from large rallies to smaller leafleting, education, and planning events. In France, there were several actions across the country and an action in Geneva drew 2000 people from France and Switzerland.

In Germany, there were 20 events, including an event in Ueberlingen with at least 600 people. In London, hundreds took to the streets to protest HSBC Bank, which they dubbed the “frackers’ local bank.” An event in Wales attracted 400 demonstrators. Romania, where Chevron is currently drilling for shale gas, held more than ten events. And, other significant events were held across Europe including in Ireland, Spain, Bulgaria, and many more.

In Australia, there were several actions across the country and in Asia events were held in the Philippines, India and Bangladesh. In Africa there were events in Morocco, South Africa, and Cameroon and in South America, there were (or are still planned) actions in Bolivia, Colombia, Brazil, Uruguay, Peru and Argentina.

In North America there were events held across Mexico, the United States and Canada. Our allies at Council of Canadians released a poll just prior to the Global Frackdown showing that 70 percent of Canadians support a moratorium on fracking.

In Long Island, New York, 200 activists and several awesome surfers braved the rain to protest against fracking and a proposed liquefied natural gas (LNG) export facility — it was one of 20 actions held across the state. In Illinois, residents from Chicago to the Shawnee National Forest took action to keep fracking out of their beautiful state. In Colorado, people toured fracking sites. And in North Carolina, groups joined together for a Frackdown “Getdown;” and three days later they delivered Governor McCrory 50,000 petitions in support of keeping North Carolina frack free. In California, there were over a dozen actions across the state largely focused on movement building as the campaign to pressure Governor Brown to place a moratorium on fracking in California continues to ramp up. And there were many many more…

While these events happened in hundreds of communities across the world, they were all united by a common goal of stopping the extreme energy extraction methods that are jeopardizing our future. Together, communities around the globe called for an end to fracking and a swift transition to a 100 percent renewable energy future.

That message was brought home by a coalition letter signed on by over 250 groups from 39 countries and delivered to United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, calling on him to not include fracking as part of the United Nations’ Sustainability for All Initiative.

The three years of the Global Frackown have provided an important connection between the collective struggles of communities across the world, and have elevated the call for a ban on fracking into the mainstream. The oil and gas industry has virtually unlimited financial resources, but we know that when we organize, make strong demands that are backed by science, and work together, we can win.

So, lets celebrate the Global Frackdown, draw (clean) energy from it, and continue together to fight for the renewable energy future that we so desperately need.

View our full photo album here:

October 14th, 2014

California Carbon Offsets: Valid Until Proven Faulty

Factory_PollutionBy Elizabeth Nussbaumer

With the release of the EPA Power Plant Rule in June, California’s carbon cap-and-trade program has been held out as a model for other states to follow, making it remarkable that it could shortly invalidate almost a quarter of a million of its offset credits. On May 29, 2014 the California Air Resources Board (CARB) began an investigation into the validity of 4.3 million carbon offsets, and last week the CARB Executive Officer issued a preliminary determination that 231,154 of these offsets face invalidation. If they become void, it will show just how tenuous and mercurial the California market is. A mechanism meant to create permanent emissions reductions can easily be undone. How will this “solution” ever achieve anything if its supposed emissions reductions can be invalidated at a moments notice?

As I wrote in a blog last year, offsets offer polluters in California a cheaper way to meet up to 8 percent of their required emissions reductions under the state’s cap-and-trade system. In effect, an offset allows a polluter to purchase emissions reductions that happen elsewhere — a landowner in Oregon avoids emissions by not cutting down her forests (cutting down trees releases carbon dioxide into the atmosphere) and can then sell these “avoided” emissions as offsets to an oil refinery, or other polluter, in California. The oil refinery counts these offsets as part of their emissions reductions, while their pollution continues onsite. It’s a pay-to-pollute scam. Read the full article…

October 10th, 2014

Susan G. Komen, Fracking and “Pink Sh*t”

By Wenonah Hauter


What the frack? A pink fracking drill bit.

This week Susan G. Komen announced a partnership with Baker Hughes, a massive oilfield service company that operates in 90 countries. Throughout the month of October, Baker Hughes will “do their bit” in the fight against breast cancer by selling pink fracking drill bits.

While I fully support efforts to raise awareness of breast cancer, as a long-time consumer and environmental activist, I simply can’t abide such blatant pinkwashing, particularly when it willfully ignores the very obvious connection between fracking and breast cancer.

Our newest report, “The Urgent Case for a Ban on Fracking,” reveals that the practice of fracking utilizes over 100 dangerous chemicals known to cause life-threatening illnesses. Exposure to at least one of these chemicals, benzene, has been confirmed to increase people’s risk of developing cancer. And fracking waste can’t just be thrown into a dump or landfill with the rest of the trash. It’s highly toxic, often radioactive, and can easily seep into the atmosphere and water. In a handful of incidents, oil and gas companies have injected fracking fluids or wastes very close to, if not directly into, underground sources of drinking water.

If fracking is so dangerous, and if the corporations that do it are knowingly releasing dangerous chemicals into the environment, why on earth would the world’s largest breast cancer nonprofit think it’s a good idea to go into a partnership with them? This completely goes against the organization’s mission to “end breast cancer forever.”

To be honest, Susan G. Komen’s relationship with Baker Hughes is the cherry on top of a chemical-laden, toxic sundae. From pink water bottles containing BPAs to pink buckets of KFC containing carcinogenic ingredients, Susan G. Komen has made it clear they are prioritizing their pink bottom line over people they’re supposed to be helping.

Ultimately, the national nonprofit Breast Cancer Action summed this debacle up best in a recent press release:

“Breast Cancer Action today thanked Susan G. Komen and Baker Hughes for partnering on the most ludicrous piece of pink sh*t they’ve seen all year – 1,000 shiny pink drill bits. BCAction hailed this partnership as the most egregious example of “pinkwashing” they’ve ever seen and heartily lauded Komen and Baker Hughes for doing their bit to increase women’s risk of breast cancer with their toxic fracking chemicals.”

We concur.

For Europe, a Game of Fracking RISK?

By Geert Decock

Join the Global Frackdown

Don’t play geopolitics with shale gas!

Fracking is full of risks; It threatens water, air, the climate, public health, livelihoods and more.

That much we know.

But what if fracking were RISK? As in RISK, the board game, where the goal is to occupy as many territories as possible (keep in mind that the oil and gas industry’s goal is to frack as many territories as possible). The metaphor is not as farfetched as you may think.

This past Tuesday, ahead of the Global Frackdown, Food & Water Watch’s international day of action to ban fracking, we gathered outside the European Parliament in Brussels to play our own version of RISK — “Fracking RISK” — to bring lawmakers and community members up to speed on the many dangers of fracking.

Right now in the UK, European states are offering large swaths of territory to the oil and gas industry for shale gas exploration. Fearful of the many known risks of fracking, local communities are pushing back against this looming threat. Some states have even enacted local, regional and national bans on fracking. Much like the game RISK, the oil and gas industry is trying to control as much territory as it can.

Because of the crisis in Ukraine and the growing dependency of European Union member states, especially in Eastern Europe, on natural gas imports from Russia, the issue of drilling for shale gas has really shot to the top of the EU’s political agenda. Energy security and shale gas are now an integral part of geopolitical discussions in the European Union and in neighboring nations.

So, how does “Fracking RISK” work?

First, you will need to create or find a “board” with all the countries of Europe.

The rules:

Players split into two camps: On one side is Big Oil and Gas; its goal is to spread as many drilling rigs around Europe. On the other side is Local Communities; this team’s goal is to defend its lands against Big Oil and Gas by spreading fracking bans. The teams take turns throwing two dice.

If, for example, Big Oil & Gas throws a total of two or 12, they get to put in five new rigs. Throwing a total of three or 11 earns you four rigs, and so on. The rules of the dice are based on basic probabilities. The same rules apply for how many fracking bans Local Communities gets to put on the map.

There are also cards that each player receives after their turn, which they can cash in on the next turn.
For Big Oil & Gas, one card might read: “NATO Secretary General claims anti-fracking groups are KGB spies: Big Oil & Gas gets to put up five extra rigs.” Another could read: “Thanks to a ruling of a corporate tribunal (the Investor-State Dispute Settlement Mechanism currently being negotiated in the EU-US free trade agreement), Big Oil & Gas can overturn four fracking bans”.

Of course, the Local Communities team can earn these cards as well: “Public opinion demands a health impact study: Big Oil & Gas must skip a turn.” Or: “Another train with volatile shale oil blows up: Take three rigs away from Big Oil & Gas”. This one has particular relevance to a densely populated continent like Europe: “Government decides no fracking in densely populated areas: Take five rigs away from Big Oil & Gas”.

So, who won the test-round outside the Parliament on Tuesday? Unsurprisingly, Local Communities overwhelmed Big Oil & Gas by their numbers and quickly spread fracking bans all around Europe.

Check out some pictures and a video of our game. Feel free to suggest some extra rules and cards in the comments section below!

On Saturday, October 11, communities all over the world will participate in the Global Frackdown to challenge lawmakers to ban fracking. Join an event near you!

October 9th, 2014

Global Ocean Grabs Privatize Oceans, Harm Fisheries, and Threaten Fishing Communities

Fair_Fish_Logo copyBy Elizabeth Nussbaumer

Our common resources come under threat of degradation, exploitation and destruction daily. The recent trend known as “land grabbing” has continued to spread and our oceans now face similar threats. Land grabbing is characterized by a shift from small-scale, labor-intensive uses to “large-scale, capital-intensive, resource-depleting uses such as industrial monocultures (single-crop operations), raw material extraction, and large-scale hydropower generation, integrated into a growing infrastructure of global industries and markets.”

Similarly, the increasing spread of ocean grabs threatens our common access to the oceans. To raise awareness about the risks and repercussions of ocean grabbing, the Transnational Institute (TNI) recently published “The Global Ocean Grab: A Primer.” This comprehensive report offers thoroughly considered answers to many questions surrounding this issue. Read the full article…

October 3rd, 2014

EPA: Making Our Rivers for the Birds

Chicken Farm, PoultryBy Scott Edwards and Paige Tomaselli

The ongoing fight to stop the industrialized poultry industry from polluting the nation’s waterways suffered another significant blow after EPA announced it was no longer seeking an appeal of a bad West Virginia federal court decision, and environmentalists were forced to follow suit in withdrawing from the case.

Our modern chicken production system is comprised of mega-poultry companies—Pilgrim’s, Tyson, Perdue, Foster Farms and a small handful of others—who contract with local growers to raise hundreds of thousands of birds on unsustainable and highly polluting factory farms. These companies, who own the birds, feed and drugs and dictate growing conditions, leave the burden of waste disposal on the backs of contract growers who are unable to properly manage the many thousands of pounds of manure that are left behind with each flock removed from these facilities.

Ms. Lois Alt raises chickens in West Virginia for Pilgrim’s—a major food producer owned by the Brazilian company JBS. Alt admits she discharges pollution into the Chesapeake Bay watershed—a nutrient impaired watershed suffering from massive nutrient dead zones every summer. Generally, polluters are required to obtain a Clean Water Act permit, but in 2012, Ms. Alt sued the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) so that she could avoid filling out the permit application and continue polluting the streams and rivers near her facility with immunity. Read the full article…

The Future Is Ours to Fight For: Ban Fracking Now

By Lilly Adams


Lilly Adams of University of California Berkeley’s Students Against Fracking

My generation was born into a climate crisis. It was not until college that I realized I was inheriting a disaster I did not cause, but would be forced to deal with nonetheless. In tolerating, and sometimes endorsing, irresponsible, destructive practices like fracking, and in resisting sustainable change, our leaders are burdening and jeopardizing the health and safety of my generation and future ones. And while this may feel unjust, it is an opportunity for us to take up this fight and play a vital role in forging a sustainable future.

We may have inherited a climate of chaos, but we move forward in a climate of activism, change and hope. I’m joining the Global Frackdown because the ball is in our hands to fight for a livable future — for my generation and those to come.

The natural world has inspired and motivated me since I was a child. But my reasons for engaging in environmental activism, specifically in the fight against fracking, extend far beyond a personal love of nature. Stopping fracking is not just about protecting our water, air and landscapes; it is about protecting social justice. As I have learned more about fracking, I have come to realize the many ways in which it hurts our communities. Fracking-related water contamination and poor air quality threaten peoples’ health, yet fracking wells are drilled mere hundreds of feet from elementary schools. Drilling for oil and natural gas turns quiet towns into industrial extraction sites. It emits methane, a greenhouse gas that is 87 times more effective at trapping heat than carbon dioxide over a 20-year period, which exacerbates the effects of climate change. To add insult to injury, these effects are disproportionately felt by marginalized communities whose voices are silenced by oil and gas corporations that insist fracking is safe and harmful to no one. Read the full article…

Making Big Ag Bigger Is Not “Climate-Smart”

By Genna Reed GMO_Farming_BlogThumb

Combatting climate change was on everyone’s radar recently when the United Nations (UN) Climate Change Summit spurred the White House, governments and food corporations to pledge to make changes to address the biggest environmental concern of our time, specifically with respect to agriculture. Led in part by corporate behemoths like Walmart and McDonald’s, a new project was born out of this summit: the UN’s Global Alliance for “Climate-Smart Agriculture” (CSA). Read the full article…

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